Propaganda and sexism prove powerful contraceptives for Chinese women

China’s push for more births fails to convince a generation of only-children

China’s government has been trying to manage a public U-turn on one of its biggest, longest running and most powerful policy and propaganda campaigns for several years now, urging a generation of only-children – born under its one-child policy – that they should have more babies themselves.

But the posters, public information campaigns and official exhortations appear to have had almost no discernible effect. Beijing on Friday reported its lowest birthrate since the founding of Communist China over seven decades ago.

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Samuel Beckett and the human condition | Letter

The Irish writer’s humour buoyed people up in their struggles to make ends meet and hope for a better world, writes Dr Gill Gregory

You report (17 January) that, in awarding Samuel Beckett the Nobel prize for literature in 1969, the committee were concerned about his “bottomless contempt for the human condition”. I lived in Dublin for five years (1971-76) and I witnessed, in pub after pub and home after home, the immense love and respect of so-called “ordinary” people for Beckett in his humanity and ironically wry Dublin humour. At that time the majority of people were living the realities of Beckett’s stark but life-enhancing words.

I witnessed the dire poverty of large families living in two-room windowless tenements, for many of whom Beckett’s legacy was the grim humour that is innate in the impoverished human condition if it hopes to survive. His humour buoyed people up in their daily struggles to make ends meet and to hope for a better world.

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Alan Dershowitz and Ken Starr join Trump impeachment legal team

Dershowitz is known for defending Jeffrey Epstein while Starr led the investigation that culminated in Bill Clinton’s impeachment

The White House has unveiled Donald Trump’s legal team for his Senate impeachment trial, a list of attorneys whose own ageing controversies threaten to overshadow their efforts to defend the president.

As the impeachment process enters a major new phase next week, Trump’s defense team will include Alan Dershowitz, known for defending the convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein, and Kenneth Starr, the dogged prosecutor who led the investigation that culminated in the 1998 impeachment of former president Bill Clinton and lost a university post in 2016 for mishandling sexual assaults on campus.

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Brazil culture secretary fired after appearing to paraphrase Nazi Goebbels

Roberto Alvim set off a storm of outrage with comments about culture that were eerily reminiscent of Hitler’s propaganda chief

Brazil’s culture secretary, Roberto Alvim has been fired after he appeared to paraphrase the Nazi propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels in an online video to promote a national arts prize.

“Brazilian art in the next decade will be heroic and national,” said Alvim, to the music from Wagner’s Lohengrin, said to be Hitler’s favourite opera, with a portrait of the far-right president, Jair Bolsonaro, and a Brazilian flag in the background.

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French chefs stew over renowned restaurant’s loss of Michelin star

Downgrading of Auberge du Pont de Collonges to two-star establishment prompts fury

The world of French fine dining has become embroiled in yet another ratings row due to the removal of the three-star Michelin ranking from renowned chef Paul Bocuse’s restaurant, almost two years after his death.

The Auberge du Pont de Collonges, situated near the gastronomic capital of Lyon in south-east France, was the oldest three-starred restaurant in the world, having held the ranking without interruption since 1965.

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Global markets rise despite slowest Chinese growth for 30 years

Investors shrug off slowdown as new data fuels optimism China can ride out US trade war

China’s economy stumbled last year to its lowest growth rate in almost 30 years after the tit-for-tat trade war with the US took its toll on manufacturing output and consumer spending.

The world’s second-largest economic power grew by 6.1% in 2019, down from 6.8% in 2018, and the lowest rate in 29 years.

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Mexico’s Amlo considers presidential jet raffle in desperate bid to offload it

Andrés Manuel López Obrador said he might sell 6m raffle tickets at $25 apiece and offered to throw in a year’s free operating time

Mexico’s president, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, has announced the latest in a series of desperate strategies to sell off his predecessor’s official jet, which he says is too luxurious for a country where half the people live in poverty.

López Obrador said on Friday he is considering raffling off the plane by selling 6m raffle tickets at $25 apiece.

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Bloody Sunday families irate Soldier F’s trial may move to Belfast

Judge says murder trial of ex-paratrooper should relocate because of ‘security concerns’

Families of the victims of the Bloody Sunday massacre in Derry have reacted with fury that the trial of an ex-paratrooper accused of murdering two men in the atrocity may be moved to Belfast.

A judge suggested on Friday that due to “security concerns” the first hearing in a case against a soldier alleged to have killed Bloody Sunday victims should be relocated to Belfast.

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Housing, water and tech: what west coast readers asked us to cover

We asked our west coast readers to vote on the issues we should cover in the new year. Here’s what they told us

Many of the issues of greatest concern to Americans – the environment, inequality, the impact of technology on our daily lives – converge with particular force in the western United States. That’s one reason the Guardian US has strengthened our commitment to reporting from the west coast in the past year. To help inform our coverage of the region, we asked our west coast readers what they would like us to focus on in 2020.

Hundreds of people voted on the issues most pressing to the west. Interestingly, the results had some, but not total, overlap with our national vote. The top five areas of interest, in descending order, were:

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Being a caretaker in paradise can be fun – as long as you respect the culture | Cole Moreton

As a young man, I fell in love with the deserted island of Great Blasket. Its new inhabitants must remember they are custodians of its history

There is nothing on Earth more beautiful than the view from the top of Great Blasket island on a bright, clear day. The sky is vast, the sea fiercely blue as it stretches away towards the curving horizon, with the US beyond. You can turn and walk down the steep slope of the hill, through the ruins of a village that once faced the Irish mainland, a couple of miles away. Down on the beach called the White Strand, hundreds of seals play undisturbed. And because the island is not easy to reach and has been officially uninhabited for more than half a century, there will be days and nights when you have all this beauty to yourself.

Their isolation meant they spoke a form of Irish that was rare, some said pure

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